Author Peter James with actors Laura Whitmore and Shane Richie. Picture: Helen Maybanks
Not Dead Enough
THE ample house on the first night of Peter James’s murder thriller is testimony to the fact that murder fascinates so many of us, and we enjoy the excitement of imaginatively entering a world that we hope not to encounter in real life!
The thrill of the chase – the detective trying to solve the mystery and catch the murderer before he reaches his next victim – is pure and natural drama.
Peter James is a prolific and hugely popular author of detective novels and that excitement is transferred to the live theatre at Malvern this week with considerable success.
James’ detective, Roy Grace, is an earthy character, seasoned by many years addressing the nastier aspects of society. Here he is called upon to catch a killer with a fetish for gas masks, violent sexual assaults and mysterious texts that seem to be his signature whenever he kills. ‘Because he loves you’ is his calling card and suggests a murderer who is consumed with jealousy for some hidden reason.
Plays of this kind are necessarily very plot-driven – the enjoyment does not lie in figuring our profound characters and exploring deeply significant social and ethical themes. For this reason reviewers have to take care not to spoil the story by describing the action in too much detail. Suffice it to say that when the culprit is finally identified and his motives exposed, it does leave many interesting questions unanswered regarding the earlier action, and who exactly was doing what.
Shane Richie is a very believable DS Roy Grace. Grace has still not fully got over the loss of his first wife, he has the earthy cynicism of a man confronted by human depravity. Richie carries off the role with conviction and good pace.
Laura Whitmore plays his love interest as the mortician, Cleo Morley, in her first professional role and carries it off with considerable vivacity and charm.
Stephen Billington is Brian Bishop, the principal suspect, and he has to play the innocent and appear as villain in equal measure. He has a strong stage presence, though his accent varies at times.
The design for the play provides us with two principal areas for the action: the mortuary and the police station in Brighton. The action in the latter is divided between the offices and the interviewing room. The lighting naturally provides a smooth and swift transition between the locations. This enables the production to move forward at a good pace.
There were a few moments during the performance when the audience was moved to laugh. This plot ultimately stretches credulity and leaves unanswered questions, but the audience were nonetheless gripped for much of the evening and there were a few chilling moments as well. To 25-02-17